TOKYO, May 17 — The number of foreign workers who entered Japan on technical trainee visas and disappeared while working in the country surged to a record high in 2017, data from the justice ministry has shown.
The foreign technical trainees who went missing totaled 7,089 in 2017, up from 5,058 from a year earlier.
Of those, there were 1207 missing foreign trainees in the agriculture sector.
“We suspect those missing foreign technical trainees went for better-paying jobs during their stay in Japan,” said an official from the justice ministry.
The accumulated number of foreign technical trainees who entered the country reached 274,233 at the end of 2017. The number of the missing foreign trainees accounted for 2.6 percent of the total.
The Vietnamese became the largest group of disappearances at 3,751, followed by the Chinese at 1,594 and the Cambodians at 656.
On the other hand, the number of misconduct cases by Japanese supervisors against foreign technical trainees fell to 213 in 2017, down from 239 from a year earlier.
This was partly because the justice ministry expanded its surveillance to see whether Japanese companies involved in misconduct, including failure to pay wages. Some had complained about being abused by Japanese supervisors.
The ministry also modified the system so that foreign technical trainees can change their supervisors if any misconduct had been found.
Japan started accepting unskilled foreign workers from developing countries as trainees in sectors such as agriculture, food processing and nursing care for a certain period.